Milos Raonic fends off Stan Wawrinka's fightback to win a thrilling five-set match - UBITENNIS
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Milos Raonic fends off Stan Wawrinka’s fightback to win a thrilling five-set match

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Number 13 seed Milos Raonic fended off Number 4 seed Stan Wawrinka’s fightback in a thrilling five-set match with 6-4 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-3 after three hours and 44 minutes at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.

Both players got off to a great start to their 2016 season winning titles (Wawrinka in Chennai over Borna Coric and Raonic in Brisbane over Roger Federer). They were still unbeaten in 2016 before their four-round clash in Melbourne. Wawrinka won their previous four head-to-head matches but this time Raonic showed his impressive form. He hit 82 winners including 24 aces

Raonic won the first two one-sided sets 6-4 6-3 winning 27 of his 25 points at the net. The Canadian broke serve for 5-4 in the opening set before breaking three times in the second set where he fought back from 0-2 by winning six of the next seven games for 6-3. Wawrinka fought back from two sets down to force the match to the decider.

The third set went on serve until 5-all. Wawrinka, who only earned a single break point, finally broke serve for 6-5 in the third set with a return winner followed by forehand and backhand passing shots and served out for the set.

Raonic held a 20-point service game with six deuces at the start of the fourth set after saving two break points. Wawrinka took a crucial break of serve to 30 in the fifth game to force the match to the fifth set as Raonic hit a half-volley long. The Swiss player fended off three break points in a 15-point game to take a 5-3 lead.

Raonic broke serve in the sixth game of the fifth set to take a 4-2 lead and held his service game with an ace. Wawrinka fended off a match point in his next service game at 3-5 but Raonic wrapped up the final game to love with a volley winner into the open court after an exciting 3-hour and 44-minute battle.

Raonic won 65 percent of his points at the net.

Raonic has become the first Canadian to reach the quarter finals in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

“It came down to what it always does for me. Try to play in your rhythm, dictate and control the centre of the court. It’s the next step to achieve what I want to achieve. It’s my first win on the Rod Laver, so that’s nice”, said Raonic.

Gael Monfils beats Andrey Kuznetsov in four sets 

Raonic set up a quarter final against Gael Monfils who beat Russian surprise Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in 2 hours and 37 minutes. The Frenchman converted three of his seven break point chances and fired 44 winners including 14 aces.

Monfils has qualified for the quarter finals in Melbourne for the first time in his career in his 11th appearance in this tournament. He has already played in six quarter finals at Grand Slam level after reaching the last 8 four times at the Roland Garros and twice at the US Open.

At 3-2 in the second set Monfils delighted the fans in the Margaret Court Arena with an acrobatic dive to reach a wide forehand at the back of the court but he missed his return.

“It’s like something snaps in my mind. I am a competitor so when I need to, I just fly. People need to understand that if I dive, it’s because I know I can dive. It’s instinct”, said Monfils.

Monfils made a double fault at 3-4 in the second set to hand Kuznetsov the chance to break serve. The Russian player held his service game to clinch the second set.

Monfils was solid on serve hitting 14 aces and did not drop a single point on his first serve in the third set.

“I focused great on my serve. I needed to because he was playing very good”, said Monfils.

At 1-1 after the first two sets Monfils broke serve in the sixth game of the third set to love to take a 4-2 lead. The fourth set came down to the tie-break with no breaks of serve. In the tie-break Monfils hit a cross-court backhand pass to race to a 4-0 lead before converting his first match point to win the fourth set.

Kuznetsov hit 46 unforced errors to Monfils’ 44 but made 54 unforced errors to the Frenchman’s 32.

“It was tough. I knew he would come and step in, try to play very fast. That’s what he did. I was a bit nervous, so I could not hit through him for a while. Then suddenly I think I served a bit better and I put more pressure. I grabbed the first set. I felt unlucky in the second. I lost the momentum because at this period I thought I had him. It was a bit tough for me to grip my raquet after the dive. Then it was a bit tougher to play. He had a good second set. Then I served pretty well, tried to focus on my first shot after the serve. Until the end, I was figthing

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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